Opposition leaders in Antilla arrested, diverse groups respond with solidarity

Members of ADO and other pro-freedom groups in meeting. Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

At around 3 PM on Wednesday, February 20th, leaders of different dissident groups were arrested by the State Police in the Eastern municipality of Antilla after a series of meetings.

The detainees were Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, general coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Yoandri Montoya, president of the Bayamo Youth Movement, and Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. After the arrests, all the dissidents were abandoned in different desolate locations throughout the province of Holguin.

Eriberto Liranza, from Havana, recounts that he was visiting the Eastern region of the country since February 14th and that he had been trying to dodge police vigilance and persecution since then.

On the 15th, I evaded persecution in the city of Velasco, in the municipality of Gibara. I was with a couple of other activists and we managed to escape without being arrested until arriving to Antilla“, where he participated in the 9th Anniversary celebration of the Eastern Democratic Alliance along with another 50 activists.

He explains that after carrying out another commemorative activity in Antilla during morning hours of the 20th, a group of dissidents congregated outside the home of Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez and carried out a protest, shouting slogans like “Orlando Zapata Lives” and “Down with the dictatorship“. Zapata was the political prisoner who, after tortures, mistreatment, and a lengthy hunger strike, died on February 23rd, 2010. He is considered a martyr and symbol of resistance by the internal Cuban opposition.

It seems that this protest was too much for the regime. It bothered them very much that we were freely going out to the streets“, said Liranza.

It was at that moment that the arrests occurred.

They arrested a group of us- Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Yoandri Montoya, Delmides Fidalgo and me… they aggressively put the handcuffs on us, they put them on very tightly, hurting our hands and arms“, recounts the dissident, “then they shoved us into police vehicles, where there was a glass window dividing us from the drivers seat. It was extremely hot inside“. They were taken to the Pedernales Unit, a center notorious for its mistreatment and torture of recluses, both political and common ones.

After various minutes in Pedernales, where they were mistreated and threatened with further repression, each of the activists were abandoned in different desolate areas. Rodriguez Lobaina was left in the rural area of Holguin known as La Caballeriza, while Liranza was left on the outskirts of Holguin, afterward being forced to leave the province. The whereabouts of Yoandri Montoya were unknown for a while but it was later confirmed that he arrived to his city of residence, Bayamo.

Montoya has been denouncing the increase of violence on behalf of the regime against him and other activists from the Movement which he heads in Bayamo. On recent occasions, in declarations to this blog and other independent outlets, the young activist has said he has been detained numerous times and that the young members of the group live under the constant vigilance of State Security officials and collaborators. In this month of February, police agents threatened Yoandri with taking him to prison. The dissident explains that this repression is due to the group’s increasing opposition on the streets of Cuba, demanding freedom, as well as their work with the community- one of the most prominent projects being the foundation of numerous independent gyms which provide exercise services and equipment for young locals, free of charge.

That same Wednesday, during morning hours, other detentions of Eastern Democratic Alliance members were reported, as were the cases of Yubel Cansino Acosta, Miladis Piñales Rosa, Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir (in Banes) and Luis Noa Silva (in Baracoa), according to Twitter messages published by Rolando Rodriguz (@LobainaCuba). Noa Silva was summoned to a police unit on the following day, where he was threatened with years of prison if he chose to continue his activism.

The detentions of the  leaders of these different pro-freedom groups unleashed a wave of solidarity among other members of the opposition in the Eastern region, such as other activists of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in the neighborhood of Los Negritos, in Banes, as well as other delegations of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy throughout Holguin.

Meanwhile, former political prisoner of conscience and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, published a series of tweets (@jdanielferrer), denouncing the arrests. Minutes later, Ferrer reported that members of UNPACU in Holguin carried out peaceful actions, demanding the liberation of the detainees.

I am very thankful of all the brothers who heard what was happening to us and protested for our freedom“, expressed Eriberto Liranza, “We appreciate all the support…I have the best of opinions of the opposition here in Holguin. There is lots of youth involved, and there is a strong spirit of protest against the tyranny“.

For more information contact Eriberto Liranza in Cuba: +5353- 341-682

Opposition leaders in Antilla arrested, diverse groups respond with solidarity

Strength in Unity: Diverse pro-freedom groups protest in Holguin

“Change”, a popular message written on anti-regime signs hung in Cuba

The pro-freedom groups Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), Claridad, the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO), the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the LGBTA Observatory (an organization which champions rights for Cuban homosexuals) joined forces this Friday, 15th of February, and marched in the Eastern city of Holguin to protest the countless abuses against the Ladies in White this week and to honor the memory of Laura Pollan Toledo, fallen leader of that women’s group.

Since morning hours of that Friday, dissident Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, general coordinator of ADO, informed about the activities on his Twitter account (@LobainaCuba).  Meanwhile, former political prisoner and general coordinator of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, published a link on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) with an audio-testimony of some of the participants in the demonstration.

Javier Eduardo Martínez Reyes, president of the LGBTA group, provided details in the UNPACU YouTube channel, explaining that the political police unleashed a repressive operation against all participants, interrupting the activity.  Martinez Reyes detailed that the activists set out from his home, marching, but were quickly arrested.  There were a number of police vehicles waiting for the dissidents outside.

Martinez Reyes was detained alongside Franklin Peregrino de Toro (UNPACU) and Yunier Jimenez de la Cruz (ADO and CID) in a vehicle belonging to the Ministry of the Interior with license plate #021114.  They were taken to the police unit known as El Anillo, where they remained detained for various hours.  Other members of the LGBTA, ADO, CID and Claridad were also being held there, while other activists were taken to other police units.  The police threatened all of them, saying that they would confiscate all of their materials- cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc.

The dictatorship’s State Security apparatus has made it very clear with this arrest that they deeply fear the union of diverse dissident groups on the island.  Generally, groups which act completely independent from one another manage to march at least a few blocks before they are violently arrested, but when various organizations come together to carry out a public activity, the objective of the regime is to impede the everyday people from seeing this unity in action.  The regime spends countless resources on its propaganda machine to try and create divisions among pro-freedom groups, both in and out of Cuba.

Yunier Jimenez, photo-reporter from ADO and also a member of CID, held a conversation with “Radio Republica”, where he detailed what happened from his point of view.

“We were psychologically tortured (in the Anillo police unit)”, said Jimenez, “Captain Juan Ramon Chapman told me that he would do all in his power to cause me harm, and he tried to intimidate me, saying that that he was going to kill me.  He told me my days were counted and that they were going to find me one day with my mouth full of ants.  He said that if the same thing that happened to Oswaldo Paya didn’t happen to me, then something very similar would”.

The dissidents were released after 1 PM, after more threats from their oppressors.

“However, in the end we achieved our objective, which was to have the different movements here in Holguin work together and to demonstrate to the regime that we are all Resistance and that we do not fear them, because this year is the year of the opposition in Cuba”, declared Yunier in the recording.

Strength in Unity: Diverse pro-freedom groups protest in Holguin

Why Do You Fight?

“Why Do You Fight”? That is the question which blogger, writer, photographer and activist Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal asked various of dissidents in Cuba in his latest documentary, produced from within the island.

The reasons which the interviewees give are diverse, but they all coincide in that the Cuban dictatorship destroys freedom for all citizens and that they (dissidents) not only fight for their individual rights, but also for the rights of the entire nation.

Rojas Rosabal interviewed José Daniel Ferrer García (former political prisoner), Marta Díaz Rondon (Lady in White), Caridad Caballero Batista (Lady in White) , Tania Montoya (Lady in White) , Raumel Vinajera (former political prisoner) , Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina (former political prisoner)  and Reina Luisa Tamayo (mother of assassinated political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo).  In addition, the film includes some everyday images of Cuba taken by Rojas himself.

“Why do you Fight?” was published through the YouTube account of Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, also an independent blogger and photographer and includes English subtitles.

Why Do You Fight?

Regime Orders Repudiation Against Activist, Numerous Arrests

Arrest of Caridad Caballero in 2011

Lady in White and member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Caridad Caballero Batista was in her home on this past Tuesday June 19th, at around 8 PM, along with her husband Esteban Sandez Suarez and son Eric Sandez, in the city of Holguin, when communist functionaries carried out a demonstration of repudiation against the family, which consisted of screaming hateful and aggressive slogans at them.

According to how the dissident described the situation, the participants of the repudiation were “mostly head officials“, among them from the Communist Party, from the Popular Power, from the Municipal Vigilance, and also from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, all of which screamed phrases such as “we must eliminate the enemies of the revolution”.

They stood in front of my house“, explained Caballero, and remained there for a lengthy period of time from 8 PM on.  The act of repudiaiton seemed to be “a festival” for the participants, said the activist, because there was even music for them.

On the following day, Wednesday June 20th, various dissidents from Velasco, Holguin had plans to travel to the city of Holguin to visit Caballero Batista at her home in order to participate in the weekly meeting held there, where activists carry out a vigil and share news about the latest acitivties being carried out by the Resistance on the island.  All those who tried to travel were arrested.

The first activist to be detained on that morning was Manuel Martinez Leon during the early hours as he was arriving to the local terminal.  In response to this, more than 5 dissidents showed up outside the Gibara police unit, where Leon was being held.   These protestors also had plans to travel to the home of Caballero Batista.

In a report given to “Radio Republica”, the independent journalist Rafael Leyva Leyva, one of the protestors, explained that he, along with other dissidents, were going to remain protesting outside the police unit Manuel be freed.  In addition, Leyva said that they were holding the police agent Juan Carlos Espinosa responsible for the arbitrary arrest of Leon.

A few minutes later, these same activists who were protesting were also arrested, according to declarations of Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina provided to the exiled Cuban activist Alfredo Viso.  (Listen to the audio here).  Among the detainees were Jesus Diaz Morales, Jose Pena Batista and Jorge Perez Zaldivar.

Meanwhile, Marta Diaz Rondon– member of the Ladies in White in Banes was also kept from traveling to the city of Holguin to visit her sister-in-struggle Caridad Caballero.

According to Caballero Batista, the vigilance and repression has only increased against the Cuban opposition in general.  In fact, she points out that one camera which used to be installed down her block (to monitor who comes in and goes out) was taken down and re-installed right in front of the local Catholic Church, Jesus Christ the Redeemer of Men, surely to keep a tight watch over Ladies in White from Holguin who often are victims of beatings and arrests for trying to arrive to Sunday Mass in that temple.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: +5352-629-749 // Twitter: @caricaballero 

Regime Orders Repudiation Against Activist, Numerous Arrests

Cuban Dissidents Launch New Audio-Visual Project

Cuban dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance have launched a new audio-visual project dubbed “Palenque Vision”, which will publish documentaries and other similar projects.  All the material published through “Palenque Vision” will be filmed, edited and produced from inside of Cuba by the activists themselves, as was the case of their first documentary- “Prisons of  Cuba: Sequence of Terror”.

This documentary of nearly 17 minutes was made public this past Wednesday, June 6th in Miami, during a conference in which the coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance- Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina– spoke directly from the island with members of the pro-democracy  Assembly of the Resistance and a number of media outlets.  The production includes the testimonies of 4 former Cuban political prisoners- José Daniel Ferrer García, Jorge Luis García ‘Antúnez’, Isael Poveda Silva and Rodolfo Barthelemy-who narrate the reality of Cuban political prisons: tortures, beatings, corruption amongst the guards, etc.

According to Lobaina, the documentary took about 6 months to finalize due to the fact the camera operators had to find clandestine ways to travel to the homes of the interviewees, considering that they are constantly under police surveillance.  In addition, the producers of the film had to find diverse and creative methods to send the material out of Cuba, seeing as they could not do it through the internet due to state-imposed censorship.

Rodríguez Lobaina added that “Palenque Vision” has opened its own YouTube channel, under the same name, where it will publish all of its projects as they are completed.  The channel is an extension of the blog of the Eastern Democratica Alliance, “Palenque Cubano”, where a number of activists publish essays, poems, reports and other literary works which narrate the Cuban reality.

See “Prisons of Cuba: Sequence of Terror” (English subtitles coming soon)

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

Cuban Dissidents Launch New Audio-Visual Project

More Testimonies on Cuban Regime’s Repression Against Dissidents (Saturday Feb. 18th – Sunday 19th)

On Saturday, February 18th and Sunday the 19th, a number of repressive acts against peaceful dissidents occurred throughout Cuba, as it tends to happen during all weekends.  The following testimonies are just 3 denouncements among many, and they highlight the beatings, arrests, and the vigilance which the Cuban dictatorship unleashes upon the Resistance.

Guantanamo


The general coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, was violently arrested on Saturday the 18th along with activist Isael Pooveda Silva as they were heading back to their home towns from a meeting in Antilla.  “When we arrived at the police checkpoint, we were taken out of the car by force“, denounced Lobaina.  It was then that police agents began to carry out a search of their bodies.  “The check was very violent.  They twisted my arm, despite the fact that it is injured“, added the dissident.

Lobaina noticed that various people were witnessing the arrest and so he began to shout phrases in favor of freedom and he explained that he and Isael were human rights activists.  Despite this, the “police violently lashed out against me, and they handcuffed me.  Minutes later, we were taken to the Operations Unit of Guantanamo” where both activists remained until the following day.  “As usual“, signals Rodriguez Lobaina, “the political police showed its deep worry of the recent travels we carried out through different provinces of the Cuban East as they began to threaten us“.  Lobaina refers to the meeting held in Antilla in commemoration of the 8 years of the Eastern Democratic Alliance’s activism in favor of freedom.

Banes, Holguin


This past Sunday February 19th, Lady in White Marta Diaz Rondon was “under constant vigilance” as she walked to church along with Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, also a Lady in White.

We were able to make it to church in spite of the constant surveillance by State Security officials,” explained Rondon, “They would look at us and would try to provoke us, they were constantly behind us“. After mass, both Ladies in White had their homes surrounded for the rest of the day.

Although dissidents like Diaz Rondon and Ojeda Suares are always under surveillance by State Security agents, especially on Sundays, Rondon highlights that the repression has actually intensified against her since the communist authorities “want to prevent us from traveling to  the city of Holguin to meet with other Ladies in White and attend mass at the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church. Also, Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s second anniversary of his murder is coming up, which is another reason they are intensifying the repression“.

Amid the threats, we, the dissidents in Banes, do not fear repression. We will go to where Zapata was buried because his body rested there for 6 months and we will continue going to leave flowers on his tomb. Zapata gave his life for Cuba’s freedom and we will continue his example. His death will never be in vain“.

Boyeros, Havana


Sara Marta Fonseca, Lady in White, was arrested by the political police on Sunday at 8:50 am when she left her home in Rio Verde to join the march of the Ladies in White. Before her arrest, she was able to send the message “I’m being detained” through Twitter.

Fonseca was violently pushed inside the police car and taken to the police unit of Calabazar in the municipality of Boyeros where she was left for 30 minutes before being taken to the National Revolutionary Police (NRP) unit in Cotorro. Sara Marta explained, “I was interrogated 3 times and was detained for a total of 12 hours. I was released at around 8:30pm“. This time, she was told to get off the car a few blocks away from her house, contrary to the usual treatment where she is left stranded in desolated, dark areas.

The Lady in White affirms that during her detention she was “witness of the increase of violence in Cuba. I witnessed attacks with aggressors using short weapons, and apparently this kept them from leaving alone since they were responsible for me because they had arbitrarily arrested me“.

Fonseca suffers from various disc hernias in her back and is currently under immense pain due to the arrests, beatings and aggressions.

More Testimonies on Cuban Regime’s Repression Against Dissidents (Saturday Feb. 18th – Sunday 19th)

National Front Convokes Unity, Civic Actions for the Liberation of Ivonne Malleza and Pays Tribute to Vaclav Havel

Logo of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front

Under a strict vigilance from the political police, various Cuban pro-democracy activists met on the morning of December 19th under the direction of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front in the home of the distinguished dissident leader, Idania Yanez Contreras, located in Santa Clara.  Among those present were Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Luis Felipe Rojas, Delmides Fidalgo and Idania Yanez, whom all represent various dissident organizations such as the Eastern Democratic Alliance and the Central Opposition Coalition.

Numerous reports confirmed that a dissident by the name of Alberto Reyes was arrested as he was trying to get to the meeting.  Despite this repressive atmosphere and constant vigilance on behalf of the regime’s police authorities, the dissidents discussed numerous subjects and launched various messages to the international community, among them an urgent call demanding the release of Ivonne Malleza, her husband Ignacio Martinez, and Isabel Haydee.  The three Cubans have been arrested since Wednesday, November 30th after participating in a public protest in Havana’s Fraternity Park.

The following text was drafted by various members of the National Orlando Zapata Tamayo Front and it outlines the topics discussed in the meeting:

Declaration of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front

The Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front, in its work meeting with the Central Opposition Coalition and the Eastern Democratic Alliance, has agreed to ratify the alliance with these organizations due to the necessity of seeking the spirit of unity within the non-violent Cuban opposition.  The National Front, after a fruitful interchange in regards to the different dynamics of Resistance tactics within the country, acknowledges the work and leadership developed by dissidents Idania Yanez Contreras of the Central Opposition Coalition and Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina of the Eastern Democratic Alliance.  Yanez Contreras and Rodriguez Lobaina have effectively promoted and set forth civil activism and resistance in their respective regions. In the same vein, their personal characteristics have led to an increase of pro-democracy activists joining the struggle in both those regions.

The National Front expresses the moral compromise of all its activists with the memory of the martyrs Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, and Laura Pollan Toledo.  The same way that their examples keep the spirit of the Front alive, we are calling on our activists to not allow anything to destroy the work previously achieved and to combat all forms of division and disenchantment within the dissident forces.

The National Front, and the participants of this work meeting, reaffirm the decision of continuing to carry out coordinated actions for solidarity, and demanding the freedom of Ivonne Galleza Galano, her husband Igancio Martinez, and another participant of the protest they took part in (Isabel Haydee), which led to the arrests of the three activists.

Also, on this day we send our condolences to the relatives and friends of the distinguished Czech politician Vaclav Havel.  The National Front salutes his definitive and unobjectionable compromise with the freedom of Cuba.

-Executives of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front

December 19th, 2011

National Front Convokes Unity, Civic Actions for the Liberation of Ivonne Malleza and Pays Tribute to Vaclav Havel